Young people across Scotland are getting the chance to learn new skills which could result in them being taken on as a painting and decorating apprentice, thanks to a new Pathways to Apprenticeship programme.
The Construction Pathway Apprenticeship programme was launched last year in response to the economic fallout of Covid-19, which saw fewer firms in the construction industry taking on new apprentices. The six-month training programme is aimed at young people, 18 years or younger, and it will give students a taste of the skills needed for a range of construction-related jobs – including painting and decorating – and help them assess whether they have got what it takes to make a career in this industry.
The courses are being run at three colleges across Scotland from January to June 2021, and will provide students with hands-on experience of the skills and personal attributes they will need to hone to be successful in a future apprenticeship in either carpentry and joinery, bricklaying, painting and decorating, roofing or stone masonry. Those that pass the course will be matched with employers for job interviews and, if successful, will be taken on as apprentices.
The initiative came about from the concern highlighted by number of trade bodies, including the Scottish Decorators’ Federation, that the pipeline of young talent into the construction industry was being severely disrupted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The programme was developed by the Construction Modern Apprentice Taskforce, which includes representatives from the Scottish Decorators’ Federation (SDF), the Scottish Building Federation, the Federation of Master Builders, Historic Environment Scotland, in partnership with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Skills Development Scotland (SDS), the Energy Skills Partnership and the Scottish Funding Council.
Neil Rogers, Chief Executive of the SDF, said: “This is the first time we have all come together and coalesced around this issue to create an immediate short-term response to help young people that would have normally wanted to enter a Modern Apprenticeship but whose opportunities have been limited by the current Covid situation.
“If young people have a desire to become an apprentice in the construction industry we don’t want to lose them, and this pathway helps to give them a place to sit out the economic situation, tap into their enthusiasm and give them some training in the basic skills required so that they can come ‘oven ready’ into an apprenticeship if they successfully complete the course.
“I’m particularly pleased about this programme as it has been designed by industry and managed by the industry at every stage of the way, working in partnership with SDS and the colleges to make sure it is fit for purpose.
“We’ve also tried to make it as attractive as possible for young people and have also included a level of financial support for the students with the CITB providing travel expenses of up to £20 per week for each student to attend college, plus a training allowance of £100 per week where they are not in receipt of Universal Credit.
“As this is a pilot project at the moment, we are offering the painting and decorating pathway course at South Lanarkshire College, but if we find the success rate of this programme is any better than one in ten people completing the course and going on to an apprenticeship, then this will prove that this is a better pathway than the current National Progression Awards in Construction, which is currently on offer.”
The colleges marketed the new course to school leavers last year and this pilot scheme has accepted 150 young people across Scotland. The course focuses on practical work, teaching the basic skills as well as setting each student a design and construction project so that can the tutors can assess competence and ability. The course will also teach students employability and communications skills so they can articulate themselves more effectively at interviews and in the workplace.
At the end of this course, if they are successful, they will receive a qualification, and the colleges will introduce them to potential employers that are looking to take on apprenticeships. For those that successfully complete the course and are deemed competent by a potential employer, then this qualification can count towards three months of a traditional four-year apprenticeship.
Elaine Ellis, Skills Planning Manager – Construction and other Industries at SDS, said she was impressed with how the construction industry came together to create the Construction Pathway Apprenticeship.
She said: “In the spring of 2020 we could see the negative impact that Covid could have on the talent pipeline for the construction industry, not just for existing apprentices but also the impact on new people wanting to enter the sector.
“The construction industry came together with CITB, SDS, and the colleges to create a programme that will support young people to develop the skills that construction employers value when recruiting apprentices. It will also give young people meaningful experience and knowledge of the industry.
“SDS had been looking at designing the Pathway Apprenticeship model as part of the Covid response and it was an ideal opportunity to build on the work the taskforce had underway and create a Construction Pathway Apprenticeship.
“Being proactive and responding to the impacts of Covid gave us a real sense of focus and the high level of collaboration, which we already had in the past from the industry, went up to a new level.
“I think the construction industry has been a great example of how you can work together, and the Construction Pathway Apprenticeship programme has been a great outcome of this collaboration.”
The Construction Pathway Apprenticeship pilot is also looking to address the serious issue of ‘natural wastage’ in construction where up to a third of all apprentices fail to complete their training and leave the industry early. On average, of the 3,000 construction apprentices that are taken on in Scotland, around 1,000 leave per year, representing a heavy drain on the talent pipeline and a waste of time and resources for employers.
Neil added: “The most successful apprentices that come into the painting and decorating sector are what we call ‘pre-matched’, meaning they have a good grasp of what the work involves, often though family and friends. Unfortunately, many young people do not appreciate the vagaries of the business: that they can be working outside or at heights in bad weather; that they may have to travel and stay away from home for periods of time working in other parts of the country; or that they could be laid off temporary in the winter. It’s a tough industry and can be off-putting to people who don’t understand the realities of being a painter and decorator.
“The tragedy of an apprentice leaving the industry before their time is that they have basically denied a place to someone who would have gone on to become a successful apprentice and to benefit our industry. That’s why the Pathway pilot programme is so important as a proving ground for those young people to show they have got what it takes to be successful in our industry.”
Are you undertaking a painting and decorating apprenticeship, or know someone who is? Decorating Matters would like to hear from apprentices in the industry across the country. Please email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org with your details, and you could be part of a future feature in the magazine.